Jim Sharpe RIP

My friend Jim Sharpe has sadly passed away in Aintree Hospital after a short illness unconnected with our present health crisis.

Jim will be known to many people across Sefton & West Lancashire for his ‘One Man and His Dog’ column in the Champion Newspaper.

I am not aware of many pictures of Jim as he was always stood beside the press photographer (usually Marin Snape who sadly passed on himself not so long ago) but here he is in 2014 caught on camera press notebook in hand with Cllr. Edie Pope of Lydiate Parish Council.

I blogged about Jim back in 2017 in a posting associated with him being interviewed by Maghull Radio. Here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/10/20/maghull-an-unexpected-contributor-to-a-maghull-radio-show-about-local-journalist-jim-sharpe/

Looking back on that 2017 posting it seems to say pretty much it all about Jim as I knew him but here are a couple of addition anecdotes. Jim’s politics were very much of the right and mine are very much of the left and yet I recall him being delighted when I became leader of Sefton Council; I knew his congratulations were genuine and I very much appreciated them. Jim and I would still chat from time to time in recent years indeed he phoned me about a month ago saying he was bored and wanted to a chat with me. We talked for half an hour or so about politics, life, the lockdown, his boat* on the Norfolk Broads and former councillors & other community minded folk we had known over the years.

He also kept in touch with former councillors Andrew Blackburn and Dave (Mr Lydiate) Russell. Jim would dine with Dave & Pam Russell at their house from time to time.

I know that his neighbour’s had been doing his shopping for him during the lockdown and he’d told me how much he appreciated that help when we last spoke.

As I said in my 2017 posting Jim was a journalist of the old school. At his best he was the people’s eyes and ears on the shoulders of those in power on the council locally. But he also liked good news stories about his home town of Maghull which he’d lived in for the vast majority of his life apart from a few years in and around the Colchester area working in public relations for British Telecom.

I will miss Jim because he was a decent chap, a good journalist and he cared deeply for Maghull the town I lived in for 43 years. RIP Jim

* Jim told me some years ago that he was going to leave his boat ‘Manxman’ to the YMCA in Birkenhead because they’d done so much for him.

PS – My good friend Andrew Blackburn has dug out this photo of a Maghull Mayoral charity fundraising walk in 1994 and Jim is there with us with his dog of that time too. It was taken outside the Running Horses Pub in Lydiate – Thanks Andrew

Local Democracy – Who investigates the goings on in local government these days?

I recently came across a scheme funded by the BBC (or more to the point more probably by its licence fee payers) to address a matter I have long had concerns about – see the link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2017/local-democracy-reporters

Having been a councillor since 1985 I have watched the demise of local reporting on local government with increasing concern. The demise has followed the loss of many local newspapers but even where the local newspapers do exist there is rarely any serious investigative journalism going on these days. I can recall 3 former newspapers that served my community from the not so distant past – The Maghull & Aintree Star, The Maghull Times & The Maghull & Aintree Advertiser and of course we have also lost the regional Daily Post too. This loss of local newspapers is sadly replicated across most communities.

I recall the days when the Maghull reporter for the Maghull & Aintree Advertiser would sit through most meetings of Maghull Town Council listening to and reporting on the debates that went on. Every year or so the reporters would change as new trainees were taken on. Nowadays you would be hard pressed to see local reporters at any meeting of Sefton Borough Council (or Merseytravel, the Fire Authority, NHS decision making bodies etc. etc.) unless a big issue is already on the agenda and even then the reporting is usually of ‘x’ said this and ‘y’ said that nature. You might say the local media often just passes on opinions these days. My point is there is little in the way of getting behind the politicians/officials spin.

A local paper on the warpath would once have been as worrying to a local council as the District Auditor if things were going wrong; now neither pay much attention to what a Council does so who is uncovering the goings on within local government and indeed within the other local decision making bodies that affect the lives of us all? Putting it bluntly no one the vast majority of the time.

Yes we see local government stories in the local press but they are virtually always built upon press releases from councils or the politicians who run the councils, or they are about party political spats between opposing politicians.

Is the issue that the remaining local media is not training young journalists to get to the heart of what is going on in local government? Is it that they can’t afford to pay the kind of wages required to bring on good investigative journalists? A good and experienced local government reporter would once have been expected to know as much or indeed more than the local political bigwigs they were reporting on so that they could take on the spin and expose the facts.

The problem is of course a national one, of that I have little doubt. I wonder how many uncomfortable moments that councils and publicly accountable local bodies across the land should have had (and would have had in the days when the local media was a force to contend with) are not being picked up at all these days, unless the matter is so bad that it reaches the national press/media such as the Rotten Boroughs page of Private Eye?

This challenge is, I think, what the BBC scheme is trying to address but will it have any effect? Are a new generation of independently minded investigative journalists going to be created via it? Is the present day poor reporting by the BBC a reflection of too few good investigative journalists coming through the system and is that why the BBC has launched the scheme?

As the majority of journalists will have started at the bottom of the journalistic ladder reporting on the goings on of the local parish councils will we once again see bored young reporters sat listening to the debates of Little Twittering Parish Council awaiting a juicy story?

In a functioning healthy democracy well informed investigative journalists are a big part of keeping the powerful on their toes and I fear the demise of them at a local level is doing us all a disservice.

Maghull Nostalgia – Coach & Horses Shops – Part Two

Maghull & Aintree Advertiser 29th May 1969 (p)

My posting of a couple of weeks ago, which can be accessed via the link below, refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/16/maghull-nostalgia-coach-horses-shops-part-one/

The article that went with the 1969 photo is certainly a product of its time. The way it is written shows how much more formal those times were. Here it is in full:-

Maghull & Aintree Advertiser 29th May 1969 (3)

Please click on the Advertiser article and photo to increase their size.

The first part of the article clearly refers to the other Coach & Horse shops on the opposite side of Liverpool Road North which are not in the 1969 photograph.

Remember Greenall Whitley beer or Herbert’s Chemist or Alan Kemp’s newsagent shop? In the far left of the photo is a chip shop owned by a chap whom I recall was know as Dick and in his later years he lived on the Nursery Avenue estate in Lydiate. Clearly, the Pastry Box was taken over by Sayers and in turn it became Rumbles Coffee Shop.

My thanks again to Hazel Metcalfe (nee Barnes) for providing the source material for this posting.

Maghull Nostalgia – Coach & Horses Shops – Part One

Before (1969) and after (2015) photos of the shops opposite the Coach & Horses Pub.

The first photo is actually a scan of a photo printed in the Maghull & Aintree Advertiser on 29th May 1969.

Maghull & Aintree Advertiser 29th May 1969 (p)

Liverpool Road North shops 11 15 (2)

An even older photo of these shops was included in my recent posting about The Forge and a link to that posting is available below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/01/maghull-the-forge/

My thanks to Hazel Metcalfe (nee Barnes) for the first photo.

The interesting Advertiser article to go with the 1969 picture will be the subject of a further posting on this blog site.

Maghull – The Forge

An update connected with my recent posting about one of Maghull’s most historic buildings, The Forge in Liverpool Road North.

I have been sent a copy of press cutting from October 1981 which records the passing of Ted Barnes Maghull’s last blacksmith who jointly owned and worked in The Forge with his brother. The cutting is from the long defunct Maghull & Aintree Advertiser Newspaper, I think. Also, I have now obtained what I think will be a previously unseen image of the shops next to The Forge, probably from soon after they were built.

Maghull Advertiser press cutting from October 1981

img014 - cropped

Click on the cutting or photo to enlarge them

Finally by way of an update, the Clerk of Maghull Town Council has said she is looking into the lost/missing historic plaque (see photo below) that was erected on the Liverpool Road North front wall of the property.

rsz_forge_plaque_12_10

My thanks to Hazel Metcalfe (nee Barnes) for sharing these pieces of local history.